CHICAGO—The life, legacy and impact of Student Minister Dr. Ava Muhammad is still reverberating and being talked about among the Nation of Islam and Black people worldwide. She served as the National Spokesperson of the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan and on the Executive Council of the Nation of Islam.
Her unexpected passing came as a shock but as Minister Farrakhan told those gathered at Sister Ava’s September 3 Janazah (funeral) service, “she was a star of God.”
Those who knew, worked with, or simply knew of Student Minister Dr. Ava Muhammad through her countless books, lectures or other endeavors, shared their reflections on what she means to them.
Longtime media personality Bev Smith, who broke ground with her BET show “Our Voices,” shared a special bond with Sister Ava. She met her early on when Ms. Smith lived in Pittsburgh.
In her words, discontent and dissatisfied in her “religious club,” Ms. Smith shared that she met Sister Ava through one of her many friends in the Nation of Islam. “I began to talk to her, and we didn’t broadcast it, and probably few people knew this, but she used to call me, because I was at odds (about) what I should do,” she said. Sister Ava encouraged her to go visit the mosque and so she did, for about a year and a half, according to Ms. Smith.
“And I listened, and she and I would talk about it. That’s what I mean when I say she was a good woman. And she told me what I will always remember her saying: ‘that if I loved God, then I can worship anywhere.’ And I have, especially my relationship with people who call themselves Muslims, but who are children of God,” recalled Ms. Smith.
Ms. Smith sent a special greeting of “peace” to the Nation of Islam, Final Call readers worldwide, and to people who believe in God. “If you believe in God, you have to believe what He said, and you are to cry on the incoming and rejoice on the outgoing. That’s a difficult thing to do when you think about Sister Ava and what she has been, not only to her community, through her faith, but to people who practice their faith in other words, like me. She is and was a good woman,” Ms. Smith told The Final Call.
Invoking Bible scripture, she said, Adam asked God to give him a helpmate, and Sister Ava has been that in all phases of the definition. “What a helpmate! You could call on her, or she will offer, those of you who know her, advice anytime. She was a good woman!” she emphasized.
“While you generally have to invest a significant amount of time and energy in order to get to know a person, Minister Ava radiated the essence of who she was in every moment. To be near her was to bask in love, support, kindness, enthusiasm and strength of purpose,” stated Dr. Christina Parks, a cellular and molecular biologist.
She met Sister Ava for the first and only time at Saviours’ Day 2022, when Min. Farrakhan delivered “The Swan Song.”
“Minister Ava demonstrated something that vanishingly few leaders are able to do. She led from a place of love and strength, gentleness and determination, intelligence and humility. If my time on this Earth has taught me anything, it is that a person must be deeply connected to God and standing in the center of His will in order to manifest those characteristics consistently,” Dr. Parks stated.
She added that it was one of the deepest honors of her life to meet Sister Ava, “and to know that I had garnered her support and respect.” Sister Ava was impressed with Dr. Parks’ presentation in front of the Michigan State Legislature August 10, 2021, when she advanced the position that Covid-19 vaccine mandates are unscientific, racist and discriminatory.
“It gives me great comfort to know that she is still with us, though we perceive her not. For we will need the fierce love of her warrior spirit to come alongside us, to guide and uplift us during these ever-darkening times. Please receive my deepest condolences for the loss of her physical presence. May God’s peace and comfort be upon the Nation (of Islam) and all who knew and loved Minister Dr. Ava Muhammad during this time of mourning,” Dr. Parks concluded.
Sister Audra M. Muhammad met Sister Ava when she was 18 at The Final Call administration building in 1986. She remembered how distinguished-looking Sister Ava was when she first saw her walking through the building.
“She was dressed impeccable in a business suit with a long skirt, it was a navy-blue pin stripped suit and she was carrying a briefcase,” she recalled. “The stride that she had let you know that she was taking care of business and I wanted to know, who she was,” said Sister Audra, who later became a student study group coordinator.
“It was fulfilling that I was being enhanced under her tutelage and I loved how her gentleness, her refinement, her knowledge she shared with us fully, and poured over us and made us feel whole. Sister Ava was the epitome of an MGT and GCC (Muslim Girls Training and General Civilization Class) and we should all find ourselves attempting to follow in her footsteps and do just a fraction of the work she has done,” said Sister Audra Muhammad.
Anthony F. Shahid, an activist and community leader from St. Louis, shared his reflections on a woman he called, “a giant.”
“Sister Ava Muhammad was a giant amongst many, and when it is not popular for a woman to be a minister in most religions. The Honorable Minister Farrakhan put our sister in that position and not just over a mosque, but over an entire region,” he said. Minister Farrakhan appointed Sister Ava, the Southern Regional Minister for the Nation of Islam and head of Mosque No. 15 in Atlanta where she served from 1998-2000.
“In the history of Islam for over 1,400 years, women have never been in a position of authority. But the Minister showed the world what we think about our women and how we are taught to elevate, honor and respect them. Sister Ava was very humble, and she was a good sister to me and others,” he said.
Illinois State Senator Jacqueline Collins told The Final Call that she came to the service to also honor Sister Ava. As a college student Ms. Collins did her thesis on Black women in the Nation of Islam and Sister Ava was a valuable resource. “She was very resourceful, helpful, and assisted me in completing the paper.
I found her to be an extraordinary woman of insight and influence on all believers of all faiths. She was a woman to be reckoned with—a force to be reckoned with. She was a fierce fighter for justice in raising the dignity of the Black race. So, it is just an honor to be here to recognize and acknowledge her gifts and her contributions to the Nation. By Nation, not only but the Nation of Islam but the nation of the human family,” she said.
Activist Dr. Melina Abdullah issued a statement on behalf of Black Lives Matter Grassroots. “We are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Minister Dr. Ava Muhammad. For people in the movement and women especially, Minister Ava stands as a shining example of brilliance, grace, strength, authenticity, and love for the people,” said the statement.
Dr. Abdullah shared that one of her greatest personal honors, was sitting alongside Sister Ava a few years ago. This was in October 2019, when Sister Ava’s exciting Project Separation tour electrified the West Coast. She began the tour at the instruction of Min. Farrakhan to bring to Black people the very real solution of separation as taught by the Honorable Elijah Muhammad. Sister Ava was met with a rousing, four-day reception in the Nation of Islam’s Western Region Headquarters in Los Angeles by Black and Indigenous peoples and students at Muhammad University of Islam.
“I sat silently praying that just a bit of her wisdom and her indescribably beautiful spirit would inhabit me as well. Her model has been so important for so many of us. May the good that our most righteous sister, teacher, leader, and friend offered last forever. Black Lives Matter sends our heartfelt condolences to Dr. Ava’s family and deepest love and appreciation for her life,” Dr. Abdullah told The Final Call.
Louis Ali and wife Stephanie traveled from Baton Rouge, La., to attend the Janazah service.
Mr. Ali said he was “grateful to have walked with the modern Mary, Dr. Ava Muhammad.”
All he could think of was her Separation Town Hall tours, city to city, he said. “We started out raising the question: How has integration affected Black businesses? Then Dr. Ava Muhammad was dispatched from our headquarters right here in Chicago and Minister Farrakhan had her to start saying, ‘Should Blacks consider Separation?’ and then toward the end of the tour, Minister Farrakhan told Dr. Ava, ‘Blacks must consider separation,’ stated Mr. Ali.
“Dr. Ava was all across this country, working really hard for us to become our own community and do something for ourselves. … Every time I talked to her, before we would end the conversation, I’d always tell her, ‘Dr. Ava, you’re the best.’ And her response would be, ‘We’re the winners, Brother Louis! We’re the winners, beloved, and we need to always walk with confidence knowing that we’re the winners, and we’re going to see the promised land,’” he recalled.
“So, when I heard the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan today, back behind his voice, all I could hear is Dr. Ava Muhammad saying over and over again, ‘we are the winners!’ ”
His wife Stephanie Ali said she too was overwhelmed and really inspired by Sister Ava’s example of what a woman can do, should be doing, how to represent the Minister, how to be a perfect wife, a wonderful grandmother and mother and sister and friend.
“I can still hear my children, when they were younger because her name was in our house all the time. They would be running through the house with their little voices, ‘Sister Ava’s on! Sister Ava’s on!’ She’s impacted us greatly and generations to come,” she said.
Abisayo Muhammad contributed to this report.